If you’re looking to get more Italian listening practice into your routine, then you’re in luck.
Italian is widely recognised as one of the most pleasant-sounding romance languages, capable of seducing the heart and soothing the mind.
Even those who don’t understand a word of Italian will likely tell you that listening to a native speaker is like music to their ears.
While this isn’t always the case, and there are certainly some instances when the passion behind the speech can result in loud conversation for the most trivial of topics, it’s still a very rhythmic language and often sounds great.
As a result, you should relish the task of working on your listening skills in Italian.
Like any language, you won’t always feel up for it and will experience dips in motivation, but the soothing sounds of this romance language should keep you coming back for more.
You just have to know what to listen to, and how to develop a regular practice if you want to from a beginner to intermediate in Italian.
Tune Your Ear
Before you crank up the radio and start blaring out Italian opera in the hope that you start speaking the language like a native, you need to tune your ear.
What we mean by this, is that you’ll need to learn to identify the different sounds of Italian individually, as it will help you decipher the meaning of sentences and everyday conversational phrases.
If you think you can see an Italian word written down, and then be able to recognise it being sung in an Italian song, you might be disappointed.
To learn the various sounds of Italian, we recommend the following activities.
Work With a Private Tutor
If you haven’t already worked with a private tutor, then finding one should be your top priority.
It doesn’t necessarily matter if they are a native English speaker or Italian native when you first start out, so long as their pronunciation is spot on and they have the credentials as a tutor.
SuperProf is a great platform to use if you want to work on your Italian listening from the comfort of your own home.
You can find the perfect tutor for you, and work on attuning your ear to the sounds of Italian as you get comfortable with the language at your own pace.
The benefit of working with a private tutor is you’ll get personalised tips and corrections, so you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes quickly and improve a lot in a short space of time.
Listen to Correct Pronunciation
The other thing you should do straight away when looking to improve your listening comprehension is learn the correct pronunciation.
The website Forvo is a great resource which allows you to listen to individual words spoken by native speakers, so you can understand how it is pronounced correctly.
It’s also worth taking the time to listen to each letter of the alphabet being pronounced by a native speaker - which your private tutor can help you with - since learning properly the first time will save you a lot of time and effort in future.
One of the biggest mistakes language learners make is trying to run before they can walk.
Don’t start by trying to pronounce words, start with the individual letters of the alphabet and master them before moving on. It sounds dull, but you’ll be grateful you did it when you’re speaking like a native, while others speak the language with a heavy English accent.
There are some elements of Italian pronunciation that can trip you up if you’re not careful, and some sounds that aren’t found in the English language.
Though, having said that, Italian is a phonetic language like Spanish, so when you do learn the alphabet you should be able to pronounce most words by just looking at them.
Establish a Daily Listening Practise
Italian is one of those languages that at times you might wish was more widely spoken. Not just because of how it sounds, but also because of how much more great television and entertainment there would be in the language.
Unfortunately there are few Italian TV series we would recommend, unlike other romance languages like Spanish which are becoming far more common in mainstream entertainment.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have options though, far from it.
When it comes to Italian, music should be one of your greatest tools for listening practice.
Switch On The Radio
One of the best ways to improve your Italian listening is to switch on the radio, and do your best to keep up.
While this might seem intimidating as a beginner or intermediate learner, it can help to immerse yourself fully from the beginning - even if you don’t understand a lot of what is being said.
Gradually if you keep at it, you will start to recognise common phrases, along with the cadence and rhythm of speech.
Even if it’s just how the radio presenters greet their guests or how they sign off, this should be valuable information for you.
Plus the speaking will often be interrupted with music breaks, so you don’t have to be actively concentrating the whole time.
Find Italian Music You Like
One of the main Italian listening resources at your disposal is music.
While you might want to dive straight into Pavarotti and other Italian opera singers, we’d recommend that you save this genre of music until your ear is well trained.
Even when you are very familiar with a language, opera is such a unique style of expressing the word and sounds that you still might not be able to discern what is being said.
Don’t worry though, there is plenty of good Italian pop, rock, and rap music to get stuck into to help with your listening comprehension.
Once you find some songs you like, you can give the lyricstraining website a go, and put your knowledge of the lyrics to the test for some writing practise on top of listening.
Get Into A Podcast
Podcasts are a more effective way of improving your listening skills, if you want a more disciplined approach.
There are a number of podcasts out there for learning Italian, whatever level you’re at, so it’s really just a case of finding the one which works best for you.
While some podcasts are all about immersion and each episode will be in Italian from the first word to the last, others will have native speakers talk in Italian, and native English speakers translate and explain the meaning.
- Coffee Break Italian
One of my personal favourites, which falls into the latter category of having a native English and Italian speaker, is Coffee Break Italian.
This popular podcast breaks down conversations and grammar points in easy to digest episodes, which are then divided into different ‘seasons’.
It’s an engaging and very useful podcast to listen to, so we’d highly recommend starting out with this one.
- News in Slow Italian
This podcast is an example of the immersive kind, as it’s all in Italian.
This may be overwhelming at first, but the hosts speak slowly about the day’s news, so you can get accustomed to pronunciation and learn new vocabulary along the way.
Get More From Your Entertainment
Learning a language can oftentimes seem like a chore, especially if you’ve been taught that everything has to be textbooks and rote memorisation.
However, one of the best ways to truly connect with the language, keep your motivation high, and better memorise words and sounds, is by seeking out entertainment in your target language.
After all, what better way is there to work on your speaking fluency than by watching some classic Italian gangster series like ‘Gomorra?
Watch TV with Subtitles
While Italian may not have infiltrated Netflix yet, there are still a wide range of interesting TV series and films that you can practise your listening skills with.
Some of the best revolve around the gangster/mafia culture that’s often associated with Italy’s past, such as ‘Gomorra’ and ‘Romanzo Criminale’.
Watching Italian shows and films with subtitles is great to boost your reading comprehension in Italian while also working on your listening skills.
Watch Videos on YouTube
YouTube can be another great resource for learning Italian, and tuning your ear to the sounds of the language.
Some good examples are the informative ‘ItalianPod101’, and the everyday life-oriented ‘Dolce Vita’.
Both of these channels have some fantastic videos for listening to Italian conversation and picking up new vocabulary.
ItalianPod101 is just one of a series of channels by the same company focussing specifically on Italian. It has all kinds of videos to improve your grammar, acquire new vocabulary, and generally get to grips with Italian pronunciation and conversation.
‘Dolce Vita’ is a fun channel full of insider knowledge on Italian culture and life in Italy, led by the charismatic duo of Luca and Marina.